Quinn says student fees €3,000 a year in 2015

 

PARENTS AND students face third-level fees of €3,000 a year by 2015, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has confirmed.

Mr Quinn told the Oireachtas Education Committee yesterday the student contribution fee – currently €2,250 – will increase to €2,500 next year and €2,750 in 2014. He said this year’s increase of €250 would generate an additional €18 million for the exchequer.

In the course of a lengthy pre- budget briefing, the Minister said he would be seeking cuts of €77 million.

“This is before taking account of any further upward pressures on expenditure that may emerge in 2013 and there are some indications here that our allocation for teacher pay costs may be under pressure.’’

His priority was to protect frontline education services, particularly for the most disadvantaged, he said.

Mr Quinn said about 78 per cent of the €1 billion-plus spent on education was absorbed by pay and pensions for the 95,000 staff in the sector.

On budget cuts, he had “no choice . . . but to maintain the reduced capitation grants announced for primary and post-primary schools and pay and non-pay funding for higher education institutions.

“Similarly, in relation to the teacher allocations for small schools with four teachers or less, I announced a three-year phased adjustment to these ratios last December.”

He said the four-year plan of reductions in language support teacher numbers announced by the previous Fianna Fáil-Green Party government in 2010 would unfortunately continue.

On fee-paying schools, Mr Quinn said they generated fee income of about €120 million annually. His officials were now examining how this money was being spent. The department would shortly publish a report on this issue, he said.

Sinn Féin’s education spokesman Jonathan O’Brien said he hoped the department would also examine the €100 million currently being spent on State subsidies to these schools.

“This is a complex issue and Sinn Féin supports the rights of parents to pay for their child to attend a private school – but the burden being placed on taxpayers at a time when a range of other essential services are being cut is no longer viable nor acceptable.”

On cuts in teacher allocation, Mr Quinn said this was a particularly sensitive issue for smaller schools with fewer than 350 pupils, as cuts could reduce the availability of a full range of subjects in an arbitrary manner.

Asked about the decision by Clare County Council to link payment of third-level grants to compliance with the household charge, he said the department would be seeking legal advice on this issue.

In all the circumstances, he said it was “not unreasonable“ for local authorities to act in this way with someone seeking public funds.

Senator Averil Power (Fianna Fáil) said she believed the household tax should be paid.,“but you cannot penalise one person – in this case students – for the actions of others.”